Police secretly search passport database for facial recognition matches

08/01/2024 | Liberty Investigates

UK police forces have been conducting hundreds of facial recognition searches secretly using the country's database of 46 million British passport holders, according to a report by The Telegraph (£) and Liberty Investigates. Last year, Policing Minister Chris Philp suggested officers access the database of passport holders to use facial recognition to identify suspects in burglaries, thefts and shoplifting. However, if the details in the report are accurate, the practice has been ongoing since 2019, with more than 300 searches taking place in the first nine months of 2023. 

The revelation has raised privacy concerns from MPs, campaigners and the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO). 

A spokesman for the ICO said: "The Information Commissioner's Office is engaged with the Home Office on a number of issues related to facial recognition technology to better ensure its use in line with data protection principles. We are now engaging on the issue of the passport database in light of this additional information."

Conservative MP David Davis said: "The data on both the UK passport database and the immigration database was not provided for these purposes... For the police to act like this undermines the data relationship between the citizen and the state."

In a statement for Big Brother Watch, senior advocacy officer Madeleine Stone said the revelation is "deeply concerning especially given that this intrusive technology has no clear legal basis for its use."

£ - The Telegraph article requires a subscription.

Read Full Story
UK passport

What is this page?

You are reading a summary article on the Privacy Newsfeed, a free resource for DPOs and other professionals with privacy or data protection responsibilities helping them stay informed of industry news all in one place. The information here is a brief snippet relating to a single piece of original content or several articles about a common topic or thread. The main contributor is listed in the top left-hand corner, just beneath the article title.

The Privacy Newsfeed monitors over 300 global publications, of which more than 4,350 summary articles have been posted to the online archive dating back to the beginning of 2020. A weekly roundup is available by email every Friday.

Freevacy has been shortlisted in the Best Educator category.
The PICCASO Privacy Awards recognise the people making an outstanding contribution to this dynamic and fast-growing sector.